29 May 2010

I am old but khasidah never dies

This is the ultimate keropoklekor-nation past time food delicacy that if fully appreciated will give a psychedelic assault of all the senses. There is no secret recipe or fancy ingredient for this simple and humble crafty edible sensation but a pure affection. I presume all seasoned Ganu folks or one who speak a heavy G-slang should know how to produce it in the kitchen or at least appreciate the unspeakable taste of this traditional cuisine. During my toddler time, I like to stick this food onto my palate and let it melted onto my mouth slowly just to make sure it goodness will last. I thought my peers would do the same. Probably that wast also the reason why we retain much 'G' in our conversation.

In the keropoklekor-land this beautiful and unique man-made creation is popularly known as kuih khasidah. This appetizing food is closely synonymous with another local traditional produce called 'kolleh' of which also became a very frequent vocabulary in my late grandmother's kitchen long time ago. According to my Che', who has stopped producing it in her kitchen for umpteen years now, khasidah has nothing to do with Qasidah (burda), a classic Arabic poetic chanting. Probably the emotional and wonderful spiritual power of Qasidah al-burdah and the lengthy preparation time for this food coalesced and finally a fusion of delectable marvel.

Actually I almost forgot how and what khasidah taste like until recently one of my good neighbors who had just come back from the keropoklekor land knocked on my door and gave me this utterly familiar experience to my taste bud. It is not a normal sight anymore to see khasidah sold at any shops or market in the keropoklekor land. So it was such a homecoming reception to have and sample this food again for me. My kids love it so much I have to promise them a special treat of this khasidah when we go back to keropoklekor land.

The sight of this soft-textured and mildly sweetened food is almost extinct from my taste domain but the feeling knowing that this exotic-but-almost extinct food can still be found in some of the remote corner in the keropoklekor land is very soothing indeed. This feeling has now becoming deeply very personal.

19 May 2010

Once upon a zen in Kanazawa

The first time I hit the Samurai-land, I instantly realized that if I don't find the right partner to talk to, I will become a mute traveler throughout the duration of my visit as these Samurai descendants don't speak much in other languages apart from their own. As an avid Manga fan, I should have perfected my broken Nihongo or at least memorized few kanji way before I started to fall in love with sushi.

Japanese as you may know is a very proud nation. They only eat sushi with wasabi and not with any other fancy Western condiments or even our popular shrimp past, belacan. That shows how proud they are with their food, their language or even Doraemon and other monster-kicking superheroes, of which symbolized their ingenuity and creativity.

After slightly seven blissful flight hours from KLIA to Tokyo and another one hour by a domestic flight, I touched down at Kanazawa. This town is located on the West coast of Honshu. This time around, the purpose of my visit to this captivating city was to nurture my ever shrinking brain with as much academic input as possible plus another secret rendezvous with my significant half.

Actually, I almost took a ride on the famous Japanese high-speed bullet train, shinkansen just to experience this warp-speed machine and looking forward at the same time to have another orgasmic ride that blown one into oblivion. The prospect of taking the wrong train though and being blasted into another unfamiliar Yakuza territory really put me off the idea. Mount Fuji, the initial motivation for embarking onto the train was heavily clouded and obscured with heavenly mist, so I thought it was not worth the effort, except for that orgasmic part.

Nonetheless, all disappointment and frustration of not seeing the majestic mountain was soon evaporated. After being greeted by staffs in quaint Japanese costumed uniform and our arrival heralded by few polite bows and a plate of hot misty towel to wipe our our oily face diminished any inferiority complex I may have earlier. What can I say? When the wicked die they go to hell, but the righteous are assure a reservation at the nice hotel of Nikko Kanazawa. Splendid services all around. The staffs were not only polite but also thoughtful. Like any other international star though, the 'Rainbow or Ruby channel' was just a click away. You just have to tame the demon inside.

As usual, food could become a big issue while abroad and Kanazawa posed the same problem with no exception. Smoked unagi and plain sticky rice became my staple food. One thing I found very useful was the abundance of vending machine that sold almost everything unthinkable from disposable underwear, designer sunglasses, hot Japanese date for a day (I mean the magazine). You name it. Everything that comes under the Heaven and Earth you can pull out from that wonderful machine.

Kanazawa was among the few city that was spared during World War 2 air raid. There were many Edo period architectures still standing and well preserved. Such excellent examples are the old castle town, Samurai district and Geisha entertainment district. Kanazawa tourism offers many excellent tourist activities in the city which includes some fine museums, the 15th Century 'Ninja temple of Myoryu-ji with its interior secrets and trickery and the labyrinthine bustle of Omicho market - a great place to eat seafood. But Kanazawa unchallenged attraction is the sublime Kenrokuen garden.

When the joys of blissful life become overwhelming sedated in Kanazawa, a short stopover in Tokyo to sample metropolitan lifestyle and the vibrant Shinjuku area and digital haven in Akihabara before coming back to my routine life was a perfect solution. But the night in Tokyo was never quiet. That night my restful sleep was disrupted by a continuous and persistent thumping coming from the room on the above floor. It lasted at least for 30 odd minutes. My theory, Japanese is really a hardworking nation and they work throughout the night with Bushido spirit in mind. But when similar mysterious noise came from the adjacent room echoed the same tune, I started to believe that some early morning raw sushi-eating session was seriously in action. My significant half and me just looked at each other in our blanket and grinned like silly youngsters. Still I really wanted to believe the former theory.

Kenrokuen is known as one of the three beautiful garden in Japan. It is called Kenrokuen because it combines the six attributes (kenroku) that a garden should have: spaciousness, seclusion, human ingenuity, antiquity, water and panoramic view. Fantastically calming and perfectly balanced.

Kanazawa castle has been the residential castle of the Maeda family since Toshiie Maeda entered the castle in 1583. In 1881 all the castle walls apart from Ishikawa-mon gate, were destroyed by fire. Three structured Hishi-yagura, Gojikken-nagaya and Hashizumemon Tsuzuki-yagura were restored. They are the largest scale wooden castle structures built since he Meiji era in Japan.

The house of Nomura family, the ancient site of a Samurai house. The garden was exquisitely beautiful and skillfully laid out. There is a unique, more than four hundred-year-old myrica tree which is said hard to plan here in the Hokuriku district.

Higashi Chaya district or Geisha district. Narrow winding streets and latticed windows. Higayashiyama is the heart of old Kanazawa. While here I managed to catch a glimpse of geisha hurriedly preparing herself to work. Too mesmerized, I could not capture the photo with my camera. Here you can also drink Japanese tea added with pure gold leaf. I didn't have gut to try.

My hot date for that evening, my lovely geisha in front of a section of Kanazawa castle.

Omicho market is the kitchen of Kanazawa. This popular downtown market serves varieties of food in gastronomical proportion. I was quite tempted to jump into one of the many nice looking sushi bars in this market and dipped into suhi and sashimi eating frenzy.

The fish on the stalls looked all very tempting and many weird looking sea creatures were also on display. Apart from unagi, this smoked fish was also becoming our staple diet.

At last our prayer to satisfy our taste bud with some local cuisine was answered. Toward the end of the visit we met our local students at the University and for the first time in my life chicken curry tasted so good.

Part of Kabuki/Noh theatre to end our trip to Kanazawa. But I am quite sure, our sleepless night in Tokyo has nothing to do with this heart-thumping performance.

07 May 2010

Taman Tasik Taiping in B&W

Sometimes, it is better to see things in just black and white.

...as life offers us with only two choices....

04 May 2010

Once I was a tiger!

In the pitch of darkness I started to transform myself and invoked all the inner senses in anticipation for any incoming surprises. My black attire blended well with the surrounding. When the timing was right and upon instruction by my master, I started to jump...punched...kicked and then I roared. My other colleagues did the same. Sometimes I punched them and the other time they kicked me back, in retaliation. But most of the time I received more kicks than landing a good punch onto my opponents. The bruises could last for weeks and the scars never healed in my memory.

That was my 'painful' remembrance during my initial year as 'anak Gayong'. The year was 1987 and I just started my new life chapter in the ivory tower surrounded by lifeless concrete jungles. I was hundred miles away from my beloved family for the first time. The year was a restless one for me and puberty hormones was already started to kick in. At that time, my teropong iman was still in its infancy and not well developed to take care of the hormonal imbalance.

I then got myself involved with Pertubuhan Silat Seni Gayong Malaysia (PSSGM) at my first alma mater, UKM. There was no special reason for choosing this martial art practice but merely a gut feeling. There were few other martial art clubs as well, but for me PSSGM somehow made me feel and look cool!

From there, I became a very devoted disciple, unraveling the mystery of Gayong. Rain of shine, there I was with my other anak Gayong in the open field and enclosed building to practise this ancient form of art. One of the reasons why I felt so obliged and dedicated was because of my first Gayong master, Cikgu Selamat. He came twice a week to Bangi all the way from Kelang on his really old kapcai just to make sure we got to learn all the bunga, buah, kunci and other syllabus. Despite many punctured tyres in the Federal highway in the middle of the night, that never become his stumbling block to roar together with us, his faithful disciples. His sheer spirit and utmost devotion really touched me. He later became my inspiration to move on and continue my quest to become an invulnerable.

Year in, year out - masters come and go. the late Cikgu Mat Khir, Pak Ngah and Cikgu Nazri were among the many that came to teach at our gelanggang. Occasionally, we went to visit other gelanggang and met other masters to learn special Gayong moves and tricks. They had their own touch and styles, but still the first one really made a lasting impression. I lost touch with the group after I left my alma mater and the tiger remained tamed inside. But the demon never died.

Last weekend however, I almost awakened the sleeping tiger in me and brought back all the wonderful memories in Gayong. This time though, the memory became a painful one. After so many years, I visited Pusat Latihan Tertinggi PSSGM Air Kuning, Taiping and the sight before me was really a shocking reality. My heart broke to see the sorry state of the place. Once the place where so many Gayong warriors practised and received personal attention from the founder himself, the late Dato' Meor Abdul Rahman, is now a dilapidated ruin waiting to bit the dust. The place is now ghostly eerie and almost unrecognizable to me. It was abandoned and lying vulnerable for a new development. A legacy is there no more.

It was believed anak Gayong numbered more than 100 000 and scattered roaming the globe. We should all weep and cry for being so helpless. The least is feeling ashamed to ourselves. Tiger is now becoming an endangered species. Is the tiger going to roar one more time? I keep asking myself. Only time will tell.

Jangan ditepuk susu di dulang,
Anak harimau tak dapat menyusu,
Janganglah pecah rahsia hulubalang,
Nanti harimau hilang kuku.

Jikalau ada dulang di tangan,
Jangan biar jatuh terhempas,
Jikalau ada senjata di tangan,
Jangan biar orang rampas.

Pecah gayung di dalam dulang,
Dulang hayut di lautan tujuh,
Pecah Gayong perpecahan sayang,
Di satu masa balik berpadu teguh.

Biduk berlalu kiambang bertaut,
Kata bersahut Gayong bersambut.

Anak Gayong congregated on the beach for Khatam keris. This was during my final year in UKM. This khatam keris was the last attended by Allahyarham Dato' Meor Abdul Rahman. This orthodox silat chapter took place at Port Dickson on the 23rd. June 1991. It was a symbolic gesture of a naga, a mystical creature pulang ke laut.

One of our activities was performing a silat demonstration during special ceremonies for the KAMSIS. This was my first and I was very nervous for missing several steps. Harimau mengambur mangsa - I was not the one leaping high in the air, but a mere junior crouching waiting for my turn.

A knife duel in front of PUSANEKA, perfomed flawlessly as this was my senior year in my alma mater and also becoming one of the sifus in the gelanggang.

One of the test for our obedience, courage and skills - A fearless tiger never hesitates and accepts all challenges

In one of my visits to Air Kuning to undergo several initiation processes and mandi minyak. Allahyarham Dato' knocked and broke a bamboo on my head. His son cikgu Sazali (Harimau berantai/Singa Malaya) was the one wearing a brown shirt nearby.

The last standing legacy (as of 2nd. May 2010). These were what left of the once a prestigious place for Gayong warriors to equip oneself with intimate knowledge of Gayong vast secrets. For the mortals, we have to accept the fact that nothing last forever.
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